Wintry grip remains

ISHPEMING – While last winter was a trying one for the city of Ishpeming with 43 water main breaks, this year is starting out much better despite the frigid temperatures.

“This winter’s been pretty good. We’ve probably only had four (water main breaks) since November,” said Carl Petersen, foreman for the Ishpeming Department of Public Works, said,

The city of Negaunee so far hasn’t had any water main breaks. The lack of water main breaks in Negaunee and Ishpeming are surprising considering that December has been unusually cold.

“Overall for this month we’re about seven and a half degrees below normal,” said meteorologist Megan Dodson of the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township.

Dodson said that we’ll continue to see a little bit colder temperatures – Marquette will have a high of 14, for example – but that southerly winds and a low pressure system Friday will raise temps into the 20s and blanket much of the northern Upper Peninsula with snow.

“Once the winds become more southerly, we’re actually going to see a little warm up, relatively speaking,” Dodson said.

On Saturday, most areas in the U.P. will see the temperature rise to around 30, Dodson said, before another cold front moves in Sunday dropping temperatures again.

While the area has been spared water line breaks and power outages, much of the northeastern U.S. has been hit hard.

Some homes and businesses from Maine to Michigan and into Canada that have been without electricity since last weekend’s ice storm may not get their power back for another day – or longer.

In Michigan, about 105,000 homes and businesses were still without power early today, down from more than 500,000 at the storm’s peak. CMS Energy Corp. said some of its nearly 90,000 customers still offline may have to wait until Saturday to get power back.

With no electricity at their home, Jill Ghantous and her family from downstate Swartz Creek opened their Christmas presents at a hotel in Genesee County’s Grand Blanc Township, southeast of Flint.

The family members took the Christmas stockings from their home and hung them from a dresser in the hotel room.

They also bought a small tree for the room, said Ghantous, whose children are 10 and 6.

“I guess we can kind of pulled Christmas out of nothing,” Ghantous told “You just get resourceful and try to make it the best you can.”

Bangor Hydro Electric in Maine is advising people it will be the end of the day Friday before its more than 11,000 customers are back on line. The number has fluctuated as some people get power back while others lose it. The utility said downed trees are the biggest problem facing line crews.

“We’ve had two beautiful, sunny days in Maine and the ice isn’t going anyplace,” said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “They’re very concerned about more weight coming down on trees that are already compromised by ice.”

Central Maine Power, with more than 24,000 customers still in the dark early Thursday, hoped to get power back for most by the end of the day but acknowledged that some will still be without electricity on Friday. More than 100,000 were without power at the storm’s peak.

More snow was forecast Thursday for Maine and parts of Michigan, and frigid temperatures were expected to keep ice from melting off power lines and tree branches, posing new risks for outages.

From 2 to 6 inches of snow could fall in parts of Maine.

Ashley Walter, 27, was still hunkered down with her husband, Jacob, and their month-old daughter, Leah, at a shelter set up in a school in Litchfield, Maine. The family lost power on Saturday, got it back temporarily, then lost it again Sunday and have been without since.

Despite the challenge of being forced out of the house, especially at Christmas, the family was staying positive.

“It’s definitely kind of strange but we’re hanging in there,” Ashley Walter said Wednesday. “We did our Christmas together last night. I packed little stockings and gave them to my husband, sisters and my daughter.”

Trudy Lamoreau was supervising the emergency shelter where about 25 people stayed Tuesday night. Lamoreau, who’s also the town manager, said they warmed the shelter with generators until the school got power back late Tuesday night.

“People are doing quite well considering the circumstances,” she said.

So far, authorities blame the storm for 27 deaths; 17 in the U.S. and 10 in Canada, including five who apparently died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In Canada, about 160,000 customers were without power Wednesday. There were 72,000 customers without power in Toronto, down from 300,000 at the height of the outages, and Mayor Rob Ford said some may not have power restored until the weekend.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.